The Distribution of Power in the U.S. Supreme Court

by Arthur Q. Frank, Lloyd S. Shapley


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The distribution of power among the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court is calculated using techniques of factor analysis in conjunction with a generalized Shapley-Shubik power index that takes into account the ideological or philosophical profiles of the voters. A three-dimensional profile space is constructed, based on data from the 1977-78 term. It is found that, because of his central position in this space, Justice Powell has the highest probability — about 35 percent — of being pivotal in a typical decision.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.